We all want our children’s lives to be filled with happiness, friendships and safe learning. Bullies have long tormented, teased, taunted and physically harmed their peers. But the harm a bully can do in today’s digital world is larger and has ramifications beyond the schoolyard. Harms become magnified and the stakes become higher when a child is a victim of cyberbullying. Even going home is no longer a safe place, with the constant connection and feedback through social media. While the internet is a great tool when utilized properly and navigated safely, parents need to be aware that cyberbullying is sadly more common than they may think.
A study conducted by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children shows that online harassment of youth ages 10 to 17 has increased in the last five years. This type of harassment includes negative texts and/or shaming or cruel posts on social media platforms whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat. This can have a devastating impact on a child–especially if those peers gang up digitally. The stories of children whose lives have been scarred, or worse, have lost their lives, due to cyberbullying are heartbreaking.
So, knowing the impact a cyberbully can have on your child, what can be done to protect them?
According to DoSomething.org, up to 43 percent of children under the age of 18 have been bullied online. Only 1 in 10 of those bullied is reported to confide in an adult or authority figure, so it’s more important than ever to understand the ways in which your children use and consume media. It is also important to listen to your child when they talk about their interactions on the internet.
Here are a few tips if your child is being bullied:
- Do not respond to the bully or retaliate;
- Block the person bullying your child from the appropriate social media account or all social media accounts where the bully has access to your child;
- Consider disconnecting your child’s social account;
- Block the bully’s number on your child’s phone;
- Keep a copy of everything being done (capture screenshots on Snapchat and Instagram Stories since posts are only live for a short period of time);
- Ensure the school/principal/teacher is aware of what’s going on if this is taking place at school by a classmate or peer.
If your child’s friend is being bullied:
- Tell a trusted adult in that child’s life;
- Discuss the situation with your child;
- Ensure that the school/principal/teacher is aware if the bullying is taking place at school by a classmate or peer.
A few additional tips to keep a watch on your child’s online activity:
- Keep the home computer in a common area
- Limit screen time after school
- Limit the access your child may have to the internet on any device without supervision, depending on their age and grade
- Familiarize yourself with what platforms they are using and make sure you understand the security precautions with each
- A great and simple way to monitor your child’s digital presence is simply to Google their name
This can be an exciting but sometimes anxiety-ridden time of year for parents and children alike, but with proper awareness and precautions about how to utilize the internet safely, parents should be able to maintain peace of mind that their kids are happily learning and safely enjoying what the digital world has to offer.
Find resources online: safekids.com, stopbullying.gov, pacer.org/bullying or the American Federation of Teachers: https://www.aft.org/online-safety-and-cyberbullying-resources.
At CenturyLink, our cybersecurity policies are designed to safely protect and connect our customers as they connect to the digital world.
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